Q&A with James Rollins

The Sixth Extinction by James Rollins is another winner. On the tenth anniversary of this series Rollins is able to look into his crystal ball and see the future; although not too distant a future. Consider the current outbreak of the Ebola virus that is spreading faster than it can be controlled spurring New York City to conduct a massive bioweapons drill. On the tails of the Ebola reality, this novel combines pure science with a very believable storyline that can easily be played out on the world stage, showing the dangers of bio-labs that are attempting to create life-threatening viruses.


Elise Cooper: You write three series of books and in all of them you include either former or military characters. Why?


James Rollins: I think we are all indebted to these men and women who have served or are serving. I also have been a big advocate for making sure military fiction has authentic characters. I want to help veterans so I will be participating in the Military Book Fair on November 8th on the USS Midway and have made an arrangement with Barnes and Noble to donate 20% of this book’s proceeds anytime someone buys the book and gives this code, “11412806” between August 1st and August 16th.


EC: The theme of this book is really a warning as well. Do you agree?


JR: The starting point for this novel is the bio-punk movement where labs are in set up in people’s garages. Because the technology has gotten faster, cheaper, and easier they can do some amazing things in these make shift labs. What is scary and startling is the lack of oversight. I have read about vials of Smallpox being found in the back closet of the National Institute of Health. Nature can build some really indestructible things. The labs have taken that and made these organisms nastier, tougher, easier to spread, and harder to kill which is the point of this novel.


EC: Did you mention any terrorist threat in the book?


JR: There is a very real fear that a terrorist organization can sneak someone into these postdoctoral programs. They can learn how to create or obtain one of these organisms because there is a lack of oversight. They then can use it for a weaponization. We should not reign in the scientists but we do need to be looking over their shoulders with some government policing.


EC: Did you bring in Darwin for historical reasons?


JR: Survival of the fittest. Some ecologists believe that mass extinction is healthy for the planet. Species are challenged to adapt and create a survival instinct. As I mentioned in the book dinosaurs had to become instinct to make room for the human race. The big danger is that extinction is fast while adaptation and change is slow. This counter argument sees the glass being dry before it can be refilled. Bottom line is that we are multiplying the ability of what can change.


EC: But change is not always bad?


JR: True. There is potential for amazing developments with regards to medicine and the ability to manipulate genetics. For example researchers are manipulating genetics to help treat Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.


EC: I have not seen many fictional books with many pictures, as in The 6th Extinction. Why did you put all the pictures in?


JR: A picture is worth a thousand words. I did not want to drag the story down and stop the flow so I made some points with the pictures. I also thought readers would find it interesting like the Antarctica map showing it free of ice.


EC: Why do almost all of your stories include a dog character?


JR: After I had written about five or six books a reader pointed out that I included animals as intricate parts of the story. There was the orphan Jaguar cub, a search and rescue dog, a military dog, Kane, and now Nikko. I realized at about the time I started weaning myself from my veterinary practice and writing full time that animals were seeping into my stories. I guess the side of my brain that loves animals brought out these characters.


EC: How did you come up with the characters Jenna and Nikko?


JR: I ran a contest last year when The Eye Of God came out. Whatever picture I liked that person would be made a character in this book. The woman who won was Jenna Beck and in her picture was her Siberian Husky, Nikko. She became the main character in the entire book. BTW: I might have Nikko run into Tucker and Kane sometime in the future since I like to mix up my characters.


EC: This book is the tenth anniversary. Congratulations.


JR: Thank you. I thought it would be interesting to echo some of the themes from the previous ‘bibliography of James Rollins.’ My first book, Subterranean dealt with a lost world underneath the Antarctic with an eco-system underneath it. In Amazonia there were various mutations of jungle animals, which is similar to some of what I did in this book involving synthetic biology. I believe in looking back as we move forward.


EC: What do you want readers to get out of this book?


JR: A scientific thriller. I am hoping they will enjoy the cutting edge technology and science. To get a glimpse of what is beyond the horizon using facts from today.


EC: Can you give a heads up about your next books?


JR: The next Tucker/Kane book will be titled War Hawk, due out in April. It will deal with drone warfare as Tucker is asked to save a former flame and her child. They race around the globe being chased by various factions that have developed drone warfare.

Blood Inferno is the next book in the Order of the Sanguines Series. It has Lucifer unleashed into this world creating a War of Angels. Collateral damage will be the citizens on earth. There will be a lot of destruction and chaos as the protagonists try to prevent another Armageddon.

The next Sigma book does not have a title yet but will be out next summer. It will deal with human intelligence and why it shot upward.


EC: How do you keep from mixing up your storylines considering you write three series?


JR: I am pretty structured, writing five pages a day. Nothing deters from my schedule. I have three big files for each series. Two are co-written so I have extra brain capacity with Grant and Rebecca. They make sure I do not stray although I sometimes come up with an idea while working with one story that I transfer to one of the other stories.